The Nerd Uprising

Back in the 80s and 90s, The Nerd was easy to spot. He (for it was almost always a he) was invariably skin and bones, very much into maths and computers, could probably code at least a rudimentary game on his BBC, had glasses and possibly long hair. He was single. He had acne. He was Screech from Saved by the Bell.

 

This was a great time to be a screenwriter of anything that needed to stereotype a nerd into the story. The stereotype was probably quite realistic, and there were so few nerds around it didn’t really matter if you upset them.

 

In the intervening years, however, having a home computer has gone from nothing to being the norm. It would be unusual to find someone under the age of 70 without access to some kind of computer at home. Computer literacy isn’t just a niche skill but a requirement of life.

 

At the same time there has been a prominent increase in the popularity of comic book characters, mainly through the string of highly successful superhero films. This led to a greater increase in comics and graphic novels themselves as people sought out the source material of their screen idols.

Finally, the popularity of video games has grown exponentially, with a different game and platform to suit everyone’s needs, from the experienced MMORPG gamer to those that want to play Kwazy Kupcakes whilst sat on the toilet. Whether we like it or not, almost everyone is a gamer of some kind. Indeed, the biggest market for video games is adult women, thanks in part to the likes of Farmville and Candy Crush Saga. [1]

The point is that everything we associated with nerds from 30 years ago is now a given of everyday life for the majority of people. More and more on nights out, especially with people I don’t really know very well, I’m confident that if conversation dries up I can strike up a conversation about the latest Marvel Studios film, or a big new video game, or some kind of off-mainstream television series. This is becoming my fall-back conversation far more than, say, ten years ago, when I would invariably go to football or another kind of mainstream sport. Just yesterday I was with some work colleagues, most of which I didn’t know, and we chatted for over an hour about the new Daredevil series (which I’m yet to see), Avengers: Age of Ultron, the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the new Mario Kart DLC. Sport wasn’t mentioned once and I don’t think it would have been welcome if it had been.

So, there’s plenty of growth in the nerd-themed markets to come over the next few years and I’m sure the various industries are planning ahead to make money out of them. Maybe Revenge of the Nerds will be remade in a few years as Revenge of the Jocks. Who knows?

[1] Women over 18 made up a 36% share of all video gamers compared to men over 18, who make up 35%. The above comment is only half-true too. Whilst Farmville and Candy Crush Saga have surely helped the over 50s category, I don’t see it being a large contributing factor to the 18-30s at all. I just don’t know many people in that age range playing these kinds of games – male or female – but I do know plenty of young and experienced female gamers who wouldn’t think anything of picking up the latest 1stperson shooter, a genre traditionally associated with male gamers. One of the big wins for this is the de-fragmentation of the market. Making a game specifically designed for men or women is soon going to be a thing of the past because the lines have become so blurred and you simply can’t stereotype gaming preferences by gender any more.

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